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Building Design & Optimising Ventilation

Building Design & Optimising Ventilation

The following article is taken from the August 2015 edition of Success Business Magazine


There is a lot to be said about the future of construction and for some parts we need to look back and understand what worked in the past. Today we have the benefits of modern technology to help us manage and optimise efficiencies. But there are some simple technologies from the past that are the cornerstone for energy smart buildings. Ultimately if it’s costing us significantly to live comfortably we’ve got it wrong at the outset. The principal behind what we intend to develop is simple, it’s about preventing energy intrusion at the outset and orientating common materials effectively and having the elements work for us instead of against us.

Firstly we need to orientate our building in a way where the East and West faces have some level of protection against solar intrusion through the summer months. Minimising the usage of glass on these surfaces, extended eaves and screening orientated in a way that prevents the sun falling on the buildings vertical surfaces. Ultimately we would like to orientate the front of the building to the North or close to North. The common belief is that our house should be square on the block, however if you stay within your boundary setbacks there is nothing to suggest that with clever design you can’t build a smart looking contemporary design orientated on the block to optimise this effect.

Crossflow ventilation is another important consideration, understanding the direction of the prevailing breezes and use windows that optimise this effect. Casements, louvres and hopper windows rank highly. Sliding glass windows are cheap, however understanding half the opening is fixed glass. Effective cross flow ventilation means that air can move freely throughout all the rooms within the building. Thermal mass is also a very important consideration. In the North, for decades we have been using brick and masonry block. Once again this material can be cost effective, however used on the external walls you will pay dearly in energy usage for the life of the building. Materials with a high thermal mass absorb solar radiation and convert it into radiant heat. The blockwork becomes a heat sink that ultimately gets pumped out of the building by your air conditioner. In saying this, thermal mass materials can work in your favour, such as the slab and internal walls and using lightweight materials externally with effective insulation and light reflective colours will go a long way in making your home a lot more comfortable to live in. We are currently running tests on material for external walls that perform exceedingly well with results like internal temperatures consistently two degrees below ambient temperature. This is all around building in a way that does not allow energy to penetrate the building in the first instance.

The high internal thermal mass softens rapid temperature change and the consistency in temperature control. This discussion is largely around thinking a little differently about what materials you use where. It is not necessarily that much more expensive to build in this way. The materials are in fact largely the same, but it is about selecting the right materials that work best for you rather than accepting that past practices are right.

I would expect that to build a smart energy efficient building would cost more, however I would suggest that the initial outlay would be returned in energy savings over a ten year period with the view that the savings would continue then for the life of the building. Naturally building design is where it all starts. The other elements that we will talk about in later issues is where you will really optimise from investing at the outset. There is absolutely no reason why we can’t provide a building that sits at a comfortable 24 degrees all year round with most of the modern cons around electric appliances, power, lighting and hot water with a zero energy bill.